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Who?

Somehow, I follow a lot of science fiction people and UK residents on twitter, and my feed erupted with convergent outrage this morning. Some guy named @wossy (Jonathan Ross) has been announced as the host for a British SF convention, Loncon 3, where he’ll be handing out the Hugo Awards. Who? Had to look him up.

He seems to have a bit of a reputation as a sexist boor who, as a “comedian”, likes to punch down, especially at women, and substitutes profanity for humor. I know the type; I’m sure he’ll have the lads all sniggering.

One person has already resigned from the Loncon 3 committee, with a quite clear declaration that this was an entirely inapproporiate choice for an organization with a membership a bit larger than the boys down at the pub. It sends a message that your harassment policies are just for show when you take someone who has made a career out of violating boundaries with women and rewarding them with the prestige of being the host for an international award.

The World Science Fiction Convention looks like one to skip this year.

Comments

  1. Athywren says

    Sexism in Sci Fi? I am a shock. Allow me to pick my jaw up from the floor.

    Why is all the cool stuff so completely coated in this sexist crap?

  2. says

    You might be over-reacting, PZ. Ross is a massive Sci-Fi fan, and the outrage against him is largely manufactured by the Daily Mail because he worked for the BBC. Yes, he sometimes needs to grow up, but there are far worse people than him to host that event. (He’s also a massive friend of Neil Gaiman, hence the Hugos connection)

  3. vytautasjanaauskas says

    What kind of rock do you have to live under to not know who Jonathan Ross was.

  4. says

    Rossy isn’t exactly lily-white, but for the most part, I agree with scaryduck @#4. The Daily Heil hate the BBC with a vengeance, and anyone even connected with them. Large pinch of salt probably needed.

    ———————————————————

    vytautasjanaauskas #5

    What a silly comment. And not even funny.

    Assuming you’re not a resident of North America, how many US chat-show hosts can you name? Want to bet that North Americans can’t name more? (If you are resident, substitute France or Australia.)

  5. vytautasjanaauskas says

    “US chat-show hosts”

    Literally dozens, probably all of the more famous ones. I don’t know where you got the notion that I tried to be funny with that comment. And I’m not even from England.

  6. karmacat says

    Looking at his comments and “jokes”, Ross is rather pathetic as a comedian. There are so many better comics that don’t need to resort to putting others down. If you are laughing at his jokes that says something about you. And it’s not something positive

  7. ethicsgradient says

    This seems an over-reaction. I’ve never heard of Ross being seen as horribly sexist; he does swear in contexts it’s held to be suitable (eg the British Comedy Awards – they are sold as an awards show in which you are guaranteed to get swearing and insults), and that’s why the Daily Mail and Daily Express will have a go at him. But you can also look at the work he did hosting the BBC’s Film programme for 12 years; serious when needed, appropriate jokes or levity, and quite clean. He appears to have an appreciation for science fiction that matches his for film, so I expect he will be a good host for the Hugo Awards.

  8. franko says

    I’m by no means a Ross fan, but you really have focussed very much on his obvious downsides. He (and his family) sat through the entire first London James Randi TAM, the year before you came yourself as a speaker. They seemed to enjoy it immensely. You might find his views on many topics are surprisingly close to your own.

  9. says

    Jonathan Ross isn’t a comedian , he is that most vacuous of professionals , a Television Personality.

    However, rather than really on that most vacuous of media the interwebs to attempt a value judgement on his personality, I shall look to the person who probably knows him best, his wife of 25 years Jane Goldman the writer of such MRA classics as “James Bond supports International Woman’s Day”

  10. The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical says

    vytautasjanaauskas @ 5

    What kind of rock do you have to live under to not know who Jonathan Ross was.

    I live in the US and would be hard-pressed to name more than two US talk show hosts (Oprah and Ellen Degeneres). Some people are less interested in certain things than others, and so they have less knowledge about those things they’re disinterested in. Or perhaps they would be interested and just haven’t encountered it yet. This xkcd comic comes to mind. And I doubt Jonathan Ross is nearly as cool as a supervolcano.

    I think Tim Minchin sang a song about Wossy once. That’s as far as my knowledge goes.

  11. Bob Dowling says

    Jonathan Ross, together with Russel Brand, used his radio show to leave abusive messages on Andrew Sachs’ voicemail. He got a three month suspension from the BBC (IIRC) and not much else.

    I’m already signed up for the convention, but I’ll not be attending the Hugos ceremony.

  12. says

    Jonathan Ross, together with Russel Brand, used his radio show to leave abusive messages on Andrew Sachs’ voicemail. He got a three month suspension from the BBC (IIRC) and not much else.

    Jebus, how did that slip my mind? I withdraw my “pinch of salt” comment above.

  13. marko says

    I reluctantly join the the people supporting Jonathan Ross.

    I’m not a fan, and don’t generally find him very funny, I think he aims for controversy, often clumsily and seems to manage to be fairly popular off the back of it. I think it would be fairly easy to cherry pick his comments out of a long career to build a picture of quite a hateful person towards pretty much any group but I really don’t believe it is fair to call him a sexist boor because I just don’t think it is true, he actually seems like a reasonably nice guy. Also, as mentioned in the other comments, he is a massive sci-fi geek, a household name and a reasonably obvious choice I would have thought.

  14. says

    If you get rid of all the mild sexism and direct racism in british humor all you’re left with is Victoria Coren Mitchell, or her husband David, either one being more prone to pontificate on the uselessness of an existence that includes science fiction conventions. Charley Brooker would also be available, if you felt like ending it all.

  15. Athywren says

    Confused by some of these defences of him… is it relevant that he sat through TAM? Does it matter that he behaves differently on a job that requires different behaviour of him? Is it important that the daily fail demonise him for saying ‘fuck’ on national tv? Or that his wife probably likes him? How are these things relevant to the actual criticism?
    (The actual criticism being the sexist comments, and jokes which mock people who already face discrimination.)

  16. caravelle says

    I’m probably more ambivalent than I ought to be because I associate Jonathan Ross with Tim Minchin’s three appearances on his show, but some of those controversial things in the links seem to be mostly about profanity and tastelessness, and it looks to me like the comment on how the BBC employs black people is punching very much up, not down. But yeah, the slut-shaming and making fun of people with disabilities is problematic. And I assume the actual UK people who are outraged probably know more on the subject than I do.

    I was originally mostly baffled that a talk-show host/comedian would be presenting the Hugos, but if he’s a huge SF fan and friend of people like Neil Gaiman it makes more sense… while very much validating the whole “boy’s club” vibe; what’s the track record for that convention’s choice of hosts ?

  17. says

    If you get rid of all the mild sexism and direct racism in british humor all you’re left with is Victoria Coren Mitchell, or her husband David

    Or Sue Perkins, Andy Hamilton, Dara O’Briain, Francesca Martinez, Stephen Fry, Bill Bailey, Robin Ince, Jo Brand…

    But hey, let’s keep the sexism and racism, ’cause it’s funnier.

  18. says

    I went to school with Wossy in East London and remember him as the nerdy anorak who was into soul music and comics and used to get the shit kicked out of him at football.

    He’s had some moments of appalling behaviour, and yet I reckon he’s more an ally than an enemy. I don’t have a problem with him as host.

  19. Athywren says

    I’d be willing to be a little more forgiving of Dara O’Briain, at least for now.
    He was pretty open in one of his shows that he’d taken some criticism for a comment he’d made earlier about gay people. Obviously not a great start to the anecdote, but his point in bringing it up was that, yeah, they were right, he was wrong, and he doesn’t want to be one of those people who refuses to accept criticisms and learn from them. Not sure which show it was, but I’ll see if I can find it later on for citation purposes.
    So, yeah, he’s shown himself to be willing to recognise when he’s wrong and to change so that he isn’t. Hopefully he’s going to keep that up. (Of course, it’s entirely possible that what he meant was quite a good point – I can see the point in there, that having a minimum number of women on those shows won’t help if there’s no effort to actually make things more accepting of women – but I’m not going to assume that this is what he meant unless he actually says it outright.)

  20. sqlrob says

    @Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall, #26

    Or Sue Perkins, Andy Hamilton, Dara O’Briain, Francesca Martinez, Stephen Fry, Bill Bailey, Robin Ince, Jo Brand…

    One of the voices of H2G2 as the Hugo presenter? Yes please.

  21. woozy says

    Well, I’ve never heard of him either. But from the three links PZ provided I don’t think that there is anywhere near enough information given to make an informed judgement at all. I certainly can’t claim a blanket “I know the type”.

    I mean, am I really supposed to be shocked that someone accuses someone as having a wank at Margaret Thatcher? That could mean anything.

  22. Crys T says

    Is Jonathan Ross sexist? Yes.

    Is he especially sexist, or more sexist than most TV personalities? No.

    So I guess the real question is whether we’re going to take a zero-tolerance line and protest the choice of anyone who can’t be described as feminist (which I’d have no problem with), or if we’re saying that Ross is a particularly egregious case.

    If it’s the latter, I really don’t get it: Ross can be bad, but off the top of my head I can think of a couple dozen men on UK TV who I find far more offensive.

    Personally, I think scaryduck is right and that this outrage is mostly being manufactured by the Daily Mail.

  23. Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy says

    I know Farah (the committee member who resigned) and am confident that she is not basing her judgments on the Daily Fail.

    Also, they don’t need a television personality to present the Hugos, so “name a better TV personality” is irrelevant.

  24. says

    Of course, Ross’s wife Jane Goldman is also responsible for writing movies such as Stardust, X-Men: First Class and Kick-Ass. Some of your reaction to her may depend on your response to those movies.

  25. says

    FWIW, Worldcon will be in Spokane next year. I know quite a few of the people on the committee: if the Chair (who is affiliated with the World Science Fiction Convention and not the group of locals who work to make the convention a reality) I suspect a very sizable number of people would quit rather than compromise their principles.

    So if you are going to skip Loncon 3, please consider coming to Sasquan.

  26. zibble says

    @22
    Can we not pretend that being a semi-decent human being is like some kind of comedic muzzle? Even among truly brilliant comedians, which Jonathon Ross certainly *isn’t*, racism and sexism are the least clever jokes in their repertoire. Comedians do them because it’s a cheap and easy way to get a laugh out of morons.

  27. smashingstars says

    The Daily Fail defense is puzzling, with all the links to non-DM websites in this post, in comments, and on Farah’s announcement.

  28. David Wilford says

    This is a bit off-topic, but there’s also a North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC) going on this year in Detroit come July that’s happening:

    http://detcon1.org/

    FWIW, John Scalzi has said he’ll be there so it meets with his seal of approval at least. :: seal clap ::

  29. The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical says

    Beatrice @ 37

    Thanks for the transcript link. Some highlights:

    JR: “He f***** your granddaughter!” (laughter)… I’m sorry I apologise. Andrew I apologise… I got excited, what can I say. it just came out.”

    JR: “… How could I carry that round in my head like a big brain blister all day? I had to pop it and let the pressure out…
    “Like it’s really bothered us though, he’s the poor man sitting at home sobbing over his answer machine…
    “If he’s like most people of a certain age he’s probably got a picture of his grandchildren when they’re young right by the phone.
    “So while he’s listening to the messages he’s looking at a picture of her about nine on a swing.”
    RB: “She was on a swing when I met her. Oh no!”
    JR: “And probably enjoyed her.”

    JR: (as the message plays): “She was bent over the couch…”

    Fascinating. I’m glad I don’t live in whatever version of reality it is where that’s necessary for comedy.

  30. says

    The reaction to Sachsgate was a mess, in part because Brand drew the ire of Paul Dacre by linking the Sachsgate apology to the Daily Mail’s support for fascism. The Mail, of course, went berserk at this, going full-metal lunatic in its race to get Brand and Ross sacked. This in turn meant that a lot of folks would would have otherwise be disinclined to get involved with Brand and Ross’s fuckwittery found themselves drawn in by tribal loyalties to man the shield wall against the Mail and its rabid hordes.

  31. Crys T says

    Oh ffs, no one is “defending” Ross, we’re just saying he’s no worse than your other bog-standard TV presenters. He’s *not* a comedian and hasn’t made any pretense at being “edgy” for a good 15 years now.

    As a feminist, a lot of the stuff he says makes me gag, but NO MORE SO than the equally clueless shit that comes out of mainstream public figures’ mouths does. H*is* bad, but to pretend that he’s some of especially egregious case is bullshit. And like a lot of sexists, he’s also a mixed bag: he has also said some good things in his time.

    I think Ross should be criticised for his cluelessness, but trying to make out like he’s some especially bad case, or really any worse at all than the norm, is bullshit.

  32. caravelle says

    So I thought I’d answer my own question and went through all the toastmasters since 1960 for the Hugos.
    http://www.thehugoawards.org

    Nearly all of the 50-odd toastmasters were authors or editors. The exceptions were one guy I couldn’t find out about (Tom Boardman), one prominent fanzine editor, a writer for Dr Who and George Takei.
    And three women to eleven guys for this millennium but oh well.

    It looks to me like geeky as he may be, Jonathan Ross is still a departure from the usual. Wikipedia says he’s written some comic books, so maybe that makes it make sense ? I can understand why you’d want a practiced public speaker as host, but from previous comments here it would still have made more sense to me if they’d gone with his wife.

    I don’t know if the people in charge are trying to be more “mainstream”, or if they just really personally like him.

  33. says

    I’m with you up to a point, Crys. However, his Sachsgate behaviour really was beyond The Pale.

    That said, what should have been an open-and-shut case was then muddled by the Mail and Torygraph’s crusade, which stirred memories of Piers Morgan and Garry Bushell’s destruction of Julian Clary after his remarks about ‘fisting Norman Lamont’. Which is why there may be some residual sympathy for Wossy floating about here.

  34. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Oh ffs, no one is “defending” Ross, we’re just saying he’s no worse than your other bog-standard TV presenters.

    not to nitpick (but I will). That’s defending Ross. When you say “but he’s no worse than…”, that’s defense.

    Anyway.

    No one is saying he’s the worst anything ever, just that he’s a fairly bad choice. Listed reasons support that.

  35. woozy says

    My point is I can’t tell from these links if he’s a Chris Rocker, Seth Macfarlane, or merely a Howard Stern. I’m not liking him so far but I refuse pretend to be oh so offended by someone I’ve never heard of simply because I’ve been told to find him offensive.

    That said, that Sachs prank does make him seem a little less than a class act.

  36. Athywren says

    no one is “defending” Ross, we’re just saying he’s no worse than your other bog-standard TV presenters.

    Who wants bog-standard? What’s wrong with excellence?
    I’ll happily grant you that he’s not some monster, out to wreck people’s lives with cruelly crafted hatred, he’s orders of magnitude better than Jim Davidson or Chubby Brown (who are hardly equal in crapness either) but he’s still pretty thoughtless. What’s wrong with hoping for someone brilliant?

    I also have to admit that the video bittys shared @36 softened my opinion of him somewhat. It certainly shows that he’s willing to consider the way that his words effect others, which is a good start but, like he said, you are what you present to the world, and what he’s presenting in general still isn’t particularly great. As an entirely fictional man once said, “it isn’t who am underneath that counts – it’s what I do.” And then he punched a clown… I think that’s pretty significant.

  37. caravelle says

    This just in: Ross is withdrawing.

    Wow… that is a FAST response. I don’t know if someone(s) specific leaned on him or if he just realized what was going on this quickly but that’s pretty impressive. I was expecting contentious digging of heels and bad feelings all around.

  38. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Oh, there’s digging in and feels. The con is tweeting how sad they are to accept his resignation. Within five minutes the con is going to start fomenting abuse directed at their own constituency for ruining the party, count on it. Any women who objected will now be pilloried, and the con will turn on its own, including women writers.

  39. says

    54: Well, to be fair, before withdrawing, Ross spewed a great many tweets calling his detractors names. So while he may not have been leaned on, per se, it would be disingenuous for his supporters to claim he’s withdrawn gracefully, at the very least.

    Thing is, I’m wondering why Loncon didn’t just ask Jane Goldman, his wife, to host instead. Her resume in science fiction is far more legit, and she’d have probably been less likely to crack sexist jokes.

  40. franko says

    @PZ #19. Nobody’s claiming Ross is a feminist; but please note that in the UK we haven’t yet reached US levels of self-righteous indignation that interpret every remark containing sexual innuendo as harassment. A lot of females here enjoy Ross as a talk show host: personally, I don’t. His radio comments that effectively led to the BBC dropping him were outrageous by any standard.

  41. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Franko: go fuck yourself. Folks here don’t tolerate abuse being dismissed as mere personal outrage.

  42. caravelle says

    Of course people are bemoaning the Sensitive Brigade that brought this about, but it’s nothing compared to the drama that would have occurred if he’d stayed. For one thing, people who are pissed off that he withdrew are less likely to boycott the convention, or call on others to do so (explicitly or implicitly by example). There’s a good chance now the whole thing can blow over in a week, leaving just a bunch of people to grumble at what could have been.

    If someone launches a 10,000-signature petition to Bring Wossy Back, now…

    I guess it depends on what’s going on behind the scenes. I mean, from the livejournal post PZ linked it sure doesn’t look as if the Chairs had a plan B in mind.

  43. says

    franko

    *looks outside*

    Taunton, Massachusetts? Nope, still Taunton, Somerset.

    Either my indignation may be dismissed as un-Englishly self-righteous, or his comments regarding Sachs and his granddaughter were outrageous by any standard. Please pick one or the other and stick with it.

  44. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    Within five minutes the con is going to start fomenting abuse directed at their own constituency for ruining the party, count on it. Any women who objected will now be pilloried, and the con will turn on its own, including women writers

    Oh, c’mon, Josh. I’m sure that the con organizers will thank their constituency for pointing out that there are better choices and they will cheerfully agree that a TV talking head who says sexist things was not the best choice.

    And then the giant winged porcupines will fly out of my arse. Backwards.

  45. caravelle says

    56: I think he must have deleted those tweets, because I see only the withdrawal one in the last 4 days.

    I’m not going to say I wouldn’t hold them against him, because an ungracious reaction is still an ungracious reaction, but this is the kind of situation where people almost always react badly in the moment. Especially people like Ross. So I think it’s still noteworthy that he backtracked this quickly.

  46. caravelle says

    New post by “fjm”, the person who’d stepped down from the committee :
    http://fjm.livejournal.com/1290264.html

    Everything seems to have gone quickly from my point of view but according to them this has been going on for a week, which of course it has, you don’t do that kind of public announcement the second the decision has been made internally. It does make me more curious as to what’s been going on behind the scenes though.

  47. Athywren says

    but please note that in the UK we haven’t yet reached US levels of self-righteous indignation

    You’ve never seen Points Of View, have you?
    (Or is it only criticism of sexism that’s self-righteous outrage?)

  48. ChasCPeterson says

    What kind of rock do you have to live under to not know who Jonathan Ross was.

    lol
    You benighted fools! Do you not make any effort at all to stay current on Celebrity Media Culture?!
    haha
    What a waste of lives!!

  49. Rey Fox says

    I only know who Jonathan Ross is because Nirvana smashed their instruments on his show once.

    A lot of females here enjoy Ross as a talk show host

    Why, some of my best friends are females!

  50. says

    @vytautasjanaauskas #5

    What kind of rock do you have to live under to not know who Jonathan Ross was.

    Sounds like living under a rock would improve one’s chances of knowing who he is.

  51. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    A lot of females here enjoy Ross as a talk show host

    Don’t miss the transport back to Ferenginar.

  52. says

    My point is I can’t tell from these links if he’s a Chris Rocker, Seth Macfarlane, or merely a Howard Stern.

    And no matter which he is, he’d have been a shitty, shitty choice to host the Hugos.

  53. tiko says

    @Franko 58

    As a British female who does not enjoy Ross as a talk show host, can I point out that while you are entitled to your own opinion you do not speak for the entire country when it comes to the interpretation of innuendo.

  54. zmidponk says

    I think the main problem with Jonathan Ross isn’t really any deliberately malicious misogyny, but the misogyny that comes from not growing mentally past the age of about 12. The comments made in the ‘Sachs-gate’ business would probably have many 12-year-old boys rolling about the floor laughing because they don’t have the mental maturity to grasp what’s wrong with comments like that, or care about it if they did. Similarly, other comments he’s made on his TV show, like asking the Prime Minister, David Cameron, if, as a boy, he ever had a wank whilst thinking about Margaret Thatcher in fishnets, have a certain level of juvenile humour that would be entertaining to that sort of age-group. That being the case, you kinda have to ask why they thought an old looking 12-year-old was a good choice for hosting the Hugos.

  55. says

    the UK we haven’t yet reached US levels of self-righteous indignation that interpret every remark containing sexual innuendo as harassment.

    Either that was British twittish smuggery or British sarcasm. My cultural sensors aren’t tuned finely enough to tell at this point.

    Why is it that recognizing that someone is an ass is always interpreted as the accuser being self-righteously indignant, rather than that the some is, actually, an ass? There’s plenty of evidence that this wossy fellow is just a babbling TV presenter.

    I wonder….were you also defending Seth McFarlane’s embarrassing performance at the Oscars? Wasn’t that evidence enough that plenty of Americans are oblivious to sexist tripe, just like your British ideal?

    A lot of females here enjoy Ross as a talk show host

    Ah, but are they fertile? Good breeding stock?

  56. Pteryxx says

    re zmidponk:

    … but the misogyny that comes from not growing mentally past the age of about 12. The comments made in the ‘Sachs-gate’ business would probably have many 12-year-old boys rolling about the floor laughing …

    Srs question here… would the 12-year-old girls be rolling about the floor laughing at the same jokes? Or even the six-year-old girls? If not, then why assume it’s *age group* that’s relevant here, and not, say… misogyny?

  57. zmidponk says

    Pteryxx:

    Srs question here… would the 12-year-old girls be rolling about the floor laughing at the same jokes? Or even the six-year-old girls?

    I can’t answer that question, as I was never a 12 or 6-year-old girl. I was, at one point, a 12-year-old boy, though, and, back then, it would have had me rolling around the floor laughing.

    If not, then why assume it’s *age group* that’s relevant here, and not, say… misogyny?

    Personal experience, basically – as I grew up, I mentally matured enough to no longer find things like that funny.

  58. says

    Ross and I share the same age bracket, the same upbringing and even the same schools. So to a certain extent I look on him and think ‘there but for the grace of Dog go I’. I was like that once. I think I’ve gotten better.

    A lot of Ross’s persona is schoolboy/fanboy who has never grown up. The result is a very juvenile attitude. The Paris Lees interview with him was interesting because he’s clearly being exposed to new ideas and, I hope, is beginning to modify his behaviour.

    I think he might be salvageable. At least I hope so.

  59. ChasCPeterson says

    I think the main problem with Jonathan Ross isn’t really any deliberately malicious misogyny, but the misogyny that comes from not growing mentally past the age of about 12.

    I think this is true. Having recently poked around a bit in the Slymepit, I think the same is true of most of what goes on over there. It’s like the 7th-grade lunch table online, only with ostensible adults.
    And yes, I think there’s a useful distinction to be made between immature 12-yo har-de-har misogyny and adult MRA-style misogyny, just as there are useful distinctions to be made among those and fratboy bang-the-drunk-slut misogyny and 6-yo girls-got-cooties misogyny and full-on psychopathic-serial-rape-and-murder misogyny. They are all misogyny, but some are more excusable than others on the basis of attainable levels of age-specific emotional maturity. $.02.

  60. billforsternz says

    PZ @75

    Why is it that recognizing that someone is an ass is always interpreted as the accuser being self-righteously indignant, rather than that the some is, actually, an ass? There’s plenty of evidence that this wossy fellow is just a babbling TV presenter.

    Personally I find this rush to label people with a negative epithet (“an ass”), effectively writing them off, as offensive. By your own admission you don’t know who he is, as you very concisely expressed in the dismissive three letter title of the post. I’d say there’s plenty of evidence this wossy fellow is a complex and multidimensional human being, complete with strengths and weaknesses, who probably has good days and bad days, things he regrets, things he’s justifiably proud of, etc. etc. Like most people actually.

  61. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’d say there’s plenty of evidence this wossy fellow is a complex and multidimensional human being, complete with strengths and weaknesses, who probably has good days and bad days, things he regrets, things he’s justifiably proud of, etc. etc. Like most people actually.

    Oh christ the sleaze.

    And the claim that we are a hivemind is true how????

  62. says

    Sigh…
    So let me get this straight…Johnathan Ross mocked David Cameron’s Maggie Thatcher fetish, “punched down” at Paul McCartney’s ex Heather Mills (current net worth $50 million), was deliberately misquoted when he made a pithy remark about the value the BBC places on its journalists, and finally, horror of horrors, told Gwenieh Paltrow he wanted to have sex with her. Roll out the Tumbrel!

  63. says

    Who? Had to look him up.

    Oh, honestly, PZ, how can you be so provincial? He’s a celeb in Britain, of course you haven’t heard of him; I’m sure you’ve had better things to do on your visits here than watch popular TV. But you can’t start from a position of ignorance, look him up on wikipedia and decide you know all about him. That’s the depth of research that believers put into finding out about evolution, fergrudsake!

    He’s a celeb who makes rotten jokes, is enormously popular with the general British public, and is knowledgeable about genre. Seeing how there’s a constant undercurrent of complaint whenever the Worldcon leaves the continental United States, and part of that is the perception that Worldcons in Otherplacia are just not as financially successful as US Worldcons, it would be nice if American fans didn’t attempt to shit all over the British Worldcon committee’s efforts to bring in a few mainstream punters.

    This was a tremendously lucky break for the concom: a nationally-known mainstream celeb, a professional presenter and film reviewer who loves the genre, no less, who was going to appear for free! And now it’s all blown, because of a storm of twits, sorry, tweets.

    Great balls of meat! He was only going to be there to hand over the tin rockets, he wasn’t going to embarrass everybody by groping his co-host’s boob like one particular SF writer I could name, or go around the con groping fans like a couple of authors I could name but who will nonetheless be welcomed with open arms like old friends. Ross was no reason to avoid the entire five days. It’s not as if the Hugo ceremony is all that unavoidable, or all that vital to attend, if you really couldn’t stand the idea of him.

  64. Owlmirror says

    That being the case, you kinda have to ask why they thought an old looking 12-year-old was a good choice for hosting the Hugos.

    As often quoted (by Phil Graham, originally), “the Golden Age of Science Fiction is twelve”.

    I seem to recall reading here on Pharyngula comment exchanges where people were making jokes about sex (and even saying “because I’m 12″), but it seems to me that there’s a difference between “sex is funny and double entendres are hi-larious”, and “rape jokes and slut jokes and other punching down jokes are awesome”, which even many “12”-year-olds can eventually distinguish between, I think.

  65. carlie says

    This was a tremendously lucky break for the concom:

    Said someone in no danger of being a fully paid up con attendee who spent time, money, and energy to go, expecting to have a great time, only to end up as the punchline of the main “entertainment”.

  66. says

    Since Tim Minchin has voluntarily appeared on Ross’s show, does that mean Minchin should be shunned? Let’s see what the magic purity 8-ball says!

  67. unclefrogy says

    Ihave seen his show and I do not live in the UK and the question of .having him as the host / award presenter is an interesting one.. Makes you wonder what they were trying to accomplish and how they chose him.? They were not trying for gravitas or dignity in the choice, maybe it was Ross who was trying to give himself gain some prestige or up his image. Otherwise they committee looks like they were playing to the lowest common denominator of the 12 yr old customers
    On the shows I have seen he comes off as abrasive and insulting with out the jocularity of a celebrity roast.
    If they were looking for a comedy talk show host why not Graham Norton? He is at least funny and friendly.
    uncle frogy

  68. chigau (違う) says

    adrianluca
    Are you trying to make a point?
    You could try just stating it.

  69. Ichthyic says

    but please note that in the UK we haven’t yet reached US levels of self-righteous indignation

    oh, the irony…

    On 28 October 2008, the BBC said that it had received 4,700 complaints,[11] after the calls became international news.[12][13] Later the same day, this number had passed 10,000.[14] The same afternoon, Prime Minister Gordon Brown commented, calling the incident “clearly inappropriate and unacceptable”.[15] The following day the number of complaints was said to have topped 18,000.[14]

    Fifteen MPs signed a motion in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, tabled by Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay and Conservative MP Nigel Evans, calling for Brand and Ross to no longer be funded by the licence fee (which funds the BBC).[30]

    you were saying something about Brits having a muted sense of righteous indignation?

    let me respond…

    HHAAHHAAAAAHHAHAHHAHHAAAA!

  70. says

    Carlie@87: I wish I could say for sure, but I really don’t think he would misjudge his audience that way, especially as the concom (not to mention Neil Gaiman) would have had, what, six months to prep him. In any case, no way that he would have been as bad as Harlan Ellison.

    You know, sexist jokes isn’t all he does, even when you exclude stupid prank phonecalls (I blame Russell Brand for that one). He did a good job of presenting the BBC’s film review program for years, and can do a reasonable interview when he’s not playing for cheap laughs from an audience of lads and ladettes. Check out, for example, this short interview with Aishwarya Rai at Cannes in 2011, in which he treats the actress with informal respect. Search Youtube for Jonathan Ross film for other examples of him not being a complete non-gendered procreative organ.

  71. says

    Also, you know, I’d hardly class the tin rocket-giving as the main feature. I can watch the highlights of that on Youtube, or read about it online. YMMV, but to me the main feature is the five days of panels, dealers’ rooms, panels, the art gallery, panels, kaffeklatsches, panels, chatting with SF writers and artists in the bar, panels, chatting with SF luminaries in whatever the feeding venue is going to be, and did I mention the panels?

  72. Bernard Bumner says

    Ross is horribly populist, and if his comedic television persona is ugly, then more worrying should be the fact that he is simply pandering to an audience.

    He was an intelligent film critic, and a keen explorer of other cultures. He has also been a regular host and supporter of Comic Relief (he donated his copy of the first Spiderman to the charity – no small gesture for someone so utterly in love with the medium). He is capable of much better, which is what makes his cynical, cheap humour so particularly repugnant.

    @leebrimmicombe-wood #27

    Dara O’Briain didn’t say that quotas were unacceptible – he said that announcing the policy would create an impression of tokenism for shows like Mock the Week which already draw from a talent pool that massively over-represents pale men. He suggested that announcing the policy, rather than quietly enacting it, would mean that the women who have regularly appeared on the show and those appearing in future, will face a cynical perception that they are only there for the sake of a quota.

    He was unfortunately defeatist in his language about the prospects of changing that “90-10″ split in the profession, but says that Mock the Week sits 5-10 years beyond the point at which that split becomes entrenched.

    Part of his point was also that the media has become very agitated about Mock the Week being unrepresentative, but that they don’t bring the same energy to reporting – for instance – the massive gender bias in STEM.

    In a tweet to Josie Long, he said this, “I’ve had a morning discussing “Women-in-comedy”. Can’t imagine how much of a chore it must be in EVERY interview.”

    Which I think probably encapsulates his fear about perceptions of tokenism, and I’m sure those fears are rooted in the fact that his female friends and colleagues working the profession already have to constantly answer for their temerity to be funny whilst lacking suitable maleness.

  73. Muz says

    Chasing Ross out of this is a victory for half informed controversy-bait of the Daily Mail style.
    Skeptics should reserve judgement a little more.

    You could cherry pick a comic like Louis CK as a sexist homophobe very easily, even damn him by association with people like Opie and Anthony. It wouldn’t make him one, and he’s quite the opposite, but it could easily be done.

  74. Athywren says

    @ adrianluca, 89

    Since Tim Minchin has voluntarily appeared on Ross’s show, does that mean Minchin should be shunned? Let’s see what the magic purity 8-ball says!

    Sooo, you’re saying that holding someone accountable for repeated displays of insensitivity toward minorities – some of whom are rich which makes it absolutely ok to target their minority status – is completely equal with writing people off, not because of their own statements, but the statements of people with whom they have some degree of association?
    Sure, seems totally reasonable. Especially since everyone here has gone out of their way to make sure it’s clear that Ross is the devil himself, and not a human who happens to not be a great choice for representative of what should be a forward thinking, futurist group, and that being even remotely friendly with him is a sin of the gravest order.

  75. Jackie, all dressed in black says

    So, I’ve read all of the comments and here is what I’ve learned:

    Sexism is prevalent, so we can never expect better and if we suggest that we can and do expect better we’re issuing strict tests of “purity” and making mountains of mole hills. (Sure, sexism is a problem, but it’s inescapable so here, have some gaslighting and pipe down. ) Also that this TV personality is bog standard, but we should all have heard of him unless we live under a rock. Gotcha.

    Well, I’m going to keep not knowing who he is and I’m going to keep thinking that sexism being a prevalent problem is a reason to speak up and strive for better and that telling people to shut up and accept their mistreatment because change would be inconvenient for people who don’t care in the first place is a shitty thing to do.

  76. says

    Jackie@98: There’s no problem with you or PZ not knowing who Ross is. There is a small issue with American fans thinking that it’s important that they don’t know about a British celebrity being at a Worldcon at a British venue. Will you be finding it remarkable that British SF writers you’ve never read may pick up a Hugo or two this year?

  77. says

    NelC #99

    There is a small issue with American fans thinking that it’s important that they don’t know about a British celebrity being at a Worldcon at a British venue.

    The only people making making this side-issue seem important are those who are loudly objecting to the “who?” aspect.

    Jackie spent one sentence on this small issue. You devoted an entire comment to it. (And yes, so have I now. The irony is not lost on me.)

  78. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    I really wonder about the many commenters here (and on any other sexism thread) who keep insisting that, well, yeah, what he said/did/wrote was sexist, but that’s only a small part of who he is and it was just once/twice/thrice/infinitice, so why worry about that.

    How many micro-aggressions does it take to make something a societal ill that actually needs to be fought?

  79. says

    Ross is horribly populist, and if his comedic television persona is ugly, then more worrying should be the fact that he is simply pandering to an audience.

    It’s horrible how they tied him down and made him pander to a cynical sexist view of what the vox populi is.

    That’s the thing about entertainment isn’t it? Everyone knows THEY are sexist and racist small minded twerps so you have to pander to their nonsense. What me? no of course *I’m* not like that, *they* are and you better conform to what *THEY* want if you want to make it in this town. I have no problem obviously but *They* do. And I assure you that everyone else will tell you the same thing.

    Media is somehow horrible sexist and racist and yet not a single person in the know warning you about that can actually point to a racist or sexist who is enforcing the norm. Funny

  80. says

    Daz@100: That’s a silly comparison. It may be a minor point but it’s one that PZ made the subject of the title of his post, and felt was important enough to expand on, and it’s one that Jackie felt worth re-iterating. The length of the point in comparison to the response means bugger all. Most answers are longer than their questions, if they’re to have any depth at all.

    If it wasn’t important, why bring it up?

  81. says

    There is a small issue with American fans thinking that it’s important that they don’t know about a British celebrity being at a Worldcon at a British venue.

    My how the empire has fallen hasn’t it? You poor poor oppressed dears, let me make you a spot of tea, chip chip stiff upper lip old chappy

  82. Athywren says

    @ Ingdigo Jump, 104

    My how the empire has fallen hasn’t it? You poor poor oppressed dears, let me make you a spot of tea, chip chip stiff upper lip old chappy

    You know that ‘dears’ is plural, right? And that you’re only responding to one person who does not represent the unified British point of view? Also, tea? Seriously? Ugh.

  83. says

    Ingdigo Jump@104: Was there any semantic content to that string of apparent nonsense? You appear to be making the very same point I was: that the UK is a relatively unimportant country. There’s no particular reason why anyone in the USA should have heard of Ross, and by the same token, the fact of not having heard of him doesn’t have a lot to do with his suitability, or lack of it, for a British venue.

    You guys don’t own the Worldcon the way you own the World Series, you know. Otherplacians are allowed to write SF, too, and we’re explicitly allowed to have the occasional Worldcon away from the continental United States, in a place that might be quite unlike anywhere in the US, inhabited by people who might be quite unlike Americans.

    Now, can you write something that doesn’t look like nationalistic stereotyping? Or is nationalistic stereotyping not covered by the rules here?

  84. says

    NelC #103

    If it wasn’t important, why bring it up?

    As a passing remark? The title is a title, not a headline (which indeed should be informative); I think you might be somewhat confused on this point. Certainly, if I thought it was the main thrust of the post, or meant in complete seriousness, I would be somewhat miffed at the slightly nationalistic implication myself, but it quite obviously wasn’t the main thrust of the post, now was it?

    Are you new to this “sense of humour” concept, old chap?

  85. pixelfish says

    I’ve noticed that a few folks did not know who he was and questioned his credentials in the initial blowup. (Of which I was a tiny tiny part myself.) This has resulted in a lot of false equivalencies where people assume that the majority issue is gatekeeping and that we don’t know how wonderful Ross can be.

    Yet again, some few folks (PZ among them) cited his profane, laddish humour as one of multiple reasons, and Ross supporters would then focus on that in their pushback, claiming that we in SF/F have turned into a prudish unwelcoming lot happy to stay in the SF ghetto. (That’s paraphrasing a handful of reactions.)

    And of course, we have the innumerable people claiming that we’re all just taking sides because The Daily Fail hates Ross. (Which is news to many of us who regard the Daily Mail as generally vacuous and full of bile, and we’ve seen them in action on other matters like the case of Lucy Meadows. So, yes, many of us double-checked or looked to other sources.) And I would agree that there were a number of incidents in Ross’s life where nuance seems to have been lost, such as the 1000 journos quote. But there are some pretty stark instances like the Andrew Sachs call, which is basically a high profile sexual harassment case, enabled by Ross, Brand, and the BBC. There’s the reduction of Gwyneth Paltrow to fuckable. And those sorts of incidents, taken in whole with the general tenor of Ross’s comedy, is why many of us in the SF/F community were up in arms.

    For many of us in SF/F, we’d spend the better part of a year having ongoing discussions about sexism in SFWA publications (reducing women authors to whether or not they were cute in a bikini for one famous example), sexual harassment at cons, creation of policies to combat that, codes of conduct (based on incidents like the one where one T. Beale, better known by his soubriquet of Vox Day, used SFWA resources to attack an author of colour and call her slurs), and basically making sure that fandom was cleaning house so to speak. Farah Mendolsohn, she who resigned from the con committee, and many of the con committee members had just spent a large amount of time and effort ensuring that everyone knew that Loncon3 was going to have just such a policy. That the con itself would be a spot free from harassment.

    And that is why many SF/F folks reacted the way they did to the news that Jonathan Ross, a man known for generally laddish humour, slutshaming young female entertainers, and at worst for an obscene phone call which escalated into revealing actual details of a real woman’s sex life to her family AND BROADCASTING IT ON THE BBC….was going to be hosting their flagship event for the year. Basically for anybody working on the con committee’s sexual harassment policy and folks who had pushed for it and put their names on the line and those who had been assured that this was being implemented, putting Jonathan Ross was a slap in the face. And it provided many of us worry that this would be giving cover to those in SF/F that disagreed with harassment policies, that they were only going to be lip service.

    And when this was pointed out to him on Twitter, instead of saying that he understood why folks might be twitchy, he instead took people to task for being stupid, being haters, for slander.

    THIS, not Ross’s credentials, nor the Fail’s feud, was the main point upon which our objections him as a suitable MC rest. As I said elsewhere, he might be a true fan, and really nice to his mates, but that’s not the issue I have with him. In combination with the sea change many fans had been working for in regards to harassment policies, his behaviour to Andrew Sachs and his granddaughter, coupled with his instances of slutshaming and reducing women to fuckable/not (paralleling the discussion in SF about the attractiveness of women authors and slutshaming) means that he was an unsuitable choice. It is not unreasonable to think this. But I and many other folks who pointed this out on Twitter have been getting the cries of “Bullying!” and worse. (Side note: The handful of Ross supporters who showed up in my timeline persistently kept chasing arguments I wasn’t making, or trying to elide the ones I was, or minimizing it with “Gwyneth Paltrow was alright with it,” which is not the point. And the concerns about the harassment policy were almost never directly addressed by anyone on the Ross side.)

  86. pixelfish says

    Here’s a handful of links from various folks in fandom:

    http://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/jonathan-ross-vs-the-hugos/

    http://www.theferrett.com/ferrettworks/2014/03/an-abysmal-pr-job-loncon-3-and-jonathan-ross-and-how-could-you-not-have-seen-this-coming/

    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2014/03/the-latest-hugo-awards-storm.html

    The con committee member who resigned has since taken her post down, which I think might have been a mistake as it removes some necessary context, but I can understand, given that it was turning her into a lightning rod for irate Ross fans.

  87. zenlike says

    84 adrianluca

    “punched down” at Paul McCartney’s ex Heather Mills (current net worth $50 million)

    So Adrian, which is the minimum amount of money a woman should own before she apparently becomes magically immune to sexism?

  88. Athywren says

    @ Ingdigo Jump, 106

    Many many white oppression tears today, made my scones go all salty

    Are you assuming that everyone in Britain is white, or is this just a non sequitur?

  89. says

    Daz@108: The title and the opening paragraph frame the whole argument. As to the humour of the post, if Ross doesn’t get an out on sexism because he was only joking, then PZ doesn’t get an out from me on insularity because he was trying (and failing in my case) to be humorous (never mind Ingdigo Jump’s crude flailing around).

  90. says

    111.zenlike Ableism, predominantly, in Ross’s case though perhaps not adrianluca’s – Ross (during the divorce proceedings, the outcome of which is what Mills’ net worth depends on, so it’s no thanks to him if it is £24million or thereabouts) referred to her as “a fucking liar” and asserted that the court would probably find she had two legs, too (she’s an amputee having lost a leg in a car accident).